Defund the Word Police!

In the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Americans may recall, looters had a field day. In 2020, with anarchy and arson on the march, the Los Angeles Times has banned the term looting.

“Looting is a crime that occurs only during a state of emergency,” the paper’s style guide explains. “Do not use it as a broad label or term for protest, burglary, theft or chaos. Because of the racial connotation and history of the word, use terms like ‘looting’ or ‘looters’ only in the context of criminal proceedings. Unless a story is specifically about looting or those charged with the crime, ‘looting’ or its derivations (‘looted,’ ‘looters’) should not be used in the story.” 

Up in the state capital of Sacramento, notes California Globe editor Katy Grimes, “Following violence, anarchy, mass property damage, theft, robbery and vandalism during the ongoing Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots, many Sacramento businesses were destroyed. Owners boarded up windows following the rampage.” With downtown businesses still under wraps, Sacramento Bee editor Lauren Gustus announced a daring change.

“The Bee has taken several recent steps to work against long-standing stereotypes,” Gustus explained. “We have largely banned the use of the word ‘looting’—a term rooted in racism—and have sought to elevate the voices of emerging writers from communities we have long underserved.”

As the July 9 story by Ryan Lillis notes, the Bee “will limit the publication of police booking photos, surveillance photos and videos of alleged crimes, and composite sketches of suspects provided by law enforcement agencies. Publishing these photographs and videos disproportionately harms people of color and those with mental illness, while also perpetuating stereotypes about who commits crime in our community.” 

Exceptions include, “booking photos of public figures; photos of suspected serial killers; cases in which there is an immediate and widespread threat to public safety; and those suspected of hate crimes.” The Bee will continue to publish footage of police officer use of force as “one way to hold those in positions of power accountable.” 

According to Lillis, the changes flow from a July 3 story that “included surveillance photographs of people suspected of vandalizing stores in downtown Sacramento following a night of protests against police brutality. Members of the community asked that the story—and the photographs—be removed from our website the next day and we did so. We apologize for the harm that publishing those photos may have caused.” 

The Sacramento Bee is the flagship of the McClatchy newspaper chain, now mired in bankruptcy proceedings. The current owners show little curiosity about the role of political partisanship in the chain’s downfall. 

For example, the current opinion editor of the Bee is Gil Duran, former press secretary for California Governor Jerry Brown and communications director for Senator Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco Democrat. On the editorial and news side, with few exceptions, the Bee simply replicates the Democratic Party line. Fake news also greased the tracks for the slide into bankruptcy. 

Editor Rick Rodriguez looked the other way at hundreds of biased, unprofessional stories about illegal aliens, who can do no wrong in the Bee’s pages. Columnist Diana Griego Erwin cranked out countless columns of pure fiction, and Bee bosses kindly allowed the faker to retire. The prevailing mouthpiece is now Marcos Bretón, who recently took cancel culture to a whole new level

Back in 1980 at the Lake Placid Olympics, a pickup hockey team of American collegians defeated the mighty Soviet Union by a score of 4-3. It was as though North Dakota State had knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was by many accounts the greatest victory in the history of team sports. But then, on the 40th anniversary of their historic win, team members showed up at a Trump rally. 

These were “old white men wearing red hats next to Trump,” Bretón wrote, and back in the day they were “all white, fresh-faced and eager to embrace the flag without question.” So the 1980 victory “wasn’t a miracle at all,” just a “lucky win that spawned a myth that died when the red hats came out and the truth was revealed.” For sports fans, it was a sure-fire circulation builder. 

The Sacramento Bee follows up by banning the term “looting” and taking down material looters don’t like. The new owners, if any, might call the paper the Sacramento AnarchistCensor. Whatever the name, readers can defund the word police by refusing to pay for this dreck. 

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

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